So I decided to give it a go racing and did my first race today. It was a 40 minute criterium in South Florida. A little background on me, I got into cycling a little over a year ago, originally to supplement my running training but lately cycling has become my primary sport as I have been dealing with running injuries. So although I'm to still a newbie to cycling, I did have a pretty good aerobic base to build on. Two months ago I got a power meter and have been tracking my performance on the Coggan power/kg charts. According to the charts I should be a high-end Cat 3, tactics aside (a big aside, I realize). My weakness is sprinting, where my 5s max is about 1,100 watts (I weigh 162 lbs). My FT is about 300 watts.
So I entered the Cat 5 criterium, and thought I should have an easy time based on where Cat 5 falls in the power/kg chart. Wrong! This was an extremely tough race, and very humbling. In windy conditions (on an entirely flat course), the peloton averaged 23.8 mph. My average watts was 271, normalized 301, for just under 40 minutes. Avg HR was 178 (my max is 195). I went out a bit too aggressively in the beginning and did more than my share of pulling, but after about 8 minutes I settled in to 2nd to 5th place in the peleton for most of the race. There was an unsuccessful breakaway of 3 riders, but one rider broke away early on and ended up lapping the peleton and kicked all our butts. I made a move with 2 laps to go since I knew I wasn't a good sprinter, but that strategy didn't work. The peleton was on my wheel and all the sprinters kicked my butt on the last lap. I ended up finishing in the middle of the peleton.
So here I went from viewing myself as a high-end Cat 3 talent, and I never really had a chance in a Cat 5 race! Is this typical? I feel like these were not beginners. Hits to my ego aside, it was a fun challenging experience and I didn't take a spill. I guess the Cat 4 upgrade will be tougher than I thought.